Overwhelming Odds and Overabundant Grace

In December 2021 we packed up our belongings and moved from Hsinchu to Taichung City. After having spent the past three years in Mandarin Chinese study and visiting our Chinese Lutheran Brethren churches, we felt the calling of God to do outreach alongside Taichung Victory Church. This was a big change for our family—new church, new school, new home.

Hsinchu City is considered too small of a city for most Taiwanese, and has been labeled the “most boring city in Taiwan” by some popular Taiwanese YouTubers. Taichung City, on the other hand, is the second biggest city in Taiwan. It is home to almost three million people. It is home to traditional Taiwanese Hokkien speakers. It is the home to the famous temple of the sea goddess, Matsu. It is the foodie capital of Taiwan, the most central city in Taiwan (Taichung means “center of Taiwan”), and the gateway to Southern Taiwanese culture. It is home to national museums and other Taiwanese cultural attractions; but it is still a sprawling, working-class kind of city.

Taichung Victory Church was planted over 10 years ago. It is located next to the campus of Feng-Jia University and was started with a focus on outreach to students. However, Feng-Jia graduates usually end up leaving Taichung for work or further studies. Add to this, Taiwanese university students are exposed to Western culture and thought, and share many of the same aversions to Christianity as North American college students. The number of Christian students in the Feng-Jia University community is very small, typically less than 30. Because of this, Taichung Victory is a small, struggling church, rolling through university students every four years.

Taichung Victory is also in the midst of the famous Feng-Jia night market—the best night market in all of Taiwan! This means the church is also surrounded by many grassroots working-class families. According to OMF (the Overseas Missionary Fellowship), working class Taiwanese comprise 70% of the population, almost 17 million people, and only 0.5% know Jesus Christ. Outreach to working class Taiwanese families is becoming the focus of many mission organizations in Taiwan, and for good reason! And while our church lies in the midst of this working-class community, night markets are open late on Saturday nights, making Sunday morning services inconvenient to these families. This two-pronged ministry opportunity in Taichung City, to work with university students and grassroots families, was attractive to us. It fit our gifts, abilities, and experience; it is something different than our previous LBIM-Taiwan Hakka ministry focus. We were excited to see what God has in store for us.

This past summer of 2022, we scheduled a short home assignment after being on the field for almost four years, and having canceled a home assignment twice in the previous two years due to the COVID pandemic. It was refreshing to be with our family, friends, and sending church again. The more we shared about our new home in Taichung and our new ministry focus with our churches and at the CLB Biennial Convention, the more we felt excited and ready to return to Taichung and start ministry. It was good to be in our stateside home for this season, but our Taichung home was calling us.

Yet our return home was not quite what we expected. It wasn’t full of the energy and excitement that we wanted, but rather a sense of being overwhelmed. The frantic packing before our early morning flight was overwhelming. The emotions of transitioning back into a school that was still very new was overwhelming. Almost two months of constant sickness, migraines, and exhaustion was overwhelming. There were overwhelming things in the US beyond our control; overwhelming things that we had too long ignored affecting our marriage and family life at home. Now there were overwhelming things in Taiwan, COVID restrictions that were still preventing us from doing the kind of ministry we wanted. Ministry, daily life, paperwork—it all became so overwhelming in a way it hadn’t before. These overwhelming factors led us to doubt and question our calling. Why did we even bother to come back to this overwhelming life? Did we make a mistake? Are we just not cut out for this missionary life?

But, in the midst of these overwhelming odds, Christ’s overabundant grace continues to break through into our lives. We live in a big, overwhelming, unfamiliar city. But there is a close-knit missionary community in Taichung that has welcomed us in with open arms. They have given us emotional support and listening ears; they have been co-prayers and co-ministers with us and for us. Our prayers for our children to have close friends at school and a sense of stability to our new life in Taichung have been abundantly answered by our gracious God. And on those days when we have just wanted to pack up and give in, we have been given notes of encouragement from our brothers and sisters in the US, being reminded by the Holy Spirit that we have the whole CLB body of churches behind us, praying for us, wanting to see the gospel of Jesus Christ spread in Taichung.

So we ask you, Church, to continue to pray for the ministry God has prepared for us in Taichung City. Pray that the overabundant grace of Christ would continue to overcome the overwhelming odds that have bogged us down since our return. Pray that as we move forward with ministry plans, COVID restrictions on the Feng-Jia campus would be lifted to allow us to start the kind of ministry we feel God has called us to. Pray that as we make new friends with grassroots working-class families in our community, they will experience the love of Christ in word and deed, and that they would be drawn to know him more. It is God working through his Church that enables us to persist in this endeavor, to share the gospel of Christ with the people of Taichung City, people he dearly loves and desires to save.

Ben Hosch and his wife Sara serve the Church of the Lutheran Brethren as missionaries in Taiwan.

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